7 Most Memorable Movie Endings of the Past Decade

Published on August 19, 2013. Updated March 12, 2014

A fantastic ending can change the entire perception of a movie. From Orson Wells whispering for his rosebud to Scarlett O’Hara promising she’ll never go hungry again, a solid ending is the frosting on the cake of a great film. Whether they left you happy, sad or downright angry, these 7 movies will go down in history as having the most memorable endings…

1. The Descent (2005) 

Robert Ebert warned audiences, “Don’t let anybody tell you anything about the movie before you see it. The ride is a lot more fun if you don’t know where it’s headed.” This British horror story follows a group of friends on a spelunking expedition in the mountains of North Carolina. When the group becomes lost, fractured, and chased by a seemingly endless group of “crawlers”, the film takes a literally and figuratively dark turn. The ending scene follows the last survivor as she apparently claws her way to freedom. This scene is revealed to be only a hallucination and she is back in the cave, surrounded by darkness and the sound of crawlers coming for her.

2. The Orphanage (2007)

Creepy ghost movies are hard to pull off but The Orphanage had audiences across the globe shivering. When main character Laura realizes she caused the death of her adopted son, Simon, she overdoses on sleeping pills wishing to be with him again. The ghosts of Simon and the orphans reappear and reconnect with their lost mother and friend. The movie ends with Laura’s estranged husband Carlos returning to the orphanage to visit the grave of Laura, Simon, and the dead children. As he’s walking through the orphan’s bedroom, he finds a gift he had given to Laura in the center of the room. The doors in front of him open and Carlos looks up, smiling. What exactly is he seeing? Guess that one needs to wait for a sequel.

3. The Notebook (2004) 

Regardless of your stance on subsequent Nicholas Spark’s movies, The Notebook took a unique story with an incredible cast and delivered an ending that left movie-goers sobbing. The dual plot line of young lovers falling in and out of love and an elderly couple come together with elderly Allie becoming lucid, realizing her husband, Noah, was telling the story of their courtship and asking whether their love can take them away together. The next morning, the nurses at their home find them dead in each other’s arms. Included in the 30 Most Romantic Movies of All time by US Weekly, The Notebook has a sad but satisfying ending.

4. Toy Story 3 (2010) 

Most trilogies lose a bit of their magic as the series continues but Toy Story broke the mold by making each successive film better than the last. After a harrowing climax where Woody, Buzz, and friends seem destined for the extinction, Toy Story 3 delivers one of the most heartbreaking and uplifting ending in animation history. Grown up Andy leaves his toys to child Bonnie, ensuring the gang have a whole new series of adventures.

5. Shutter Island (2010)

Tom Long of the Detroit Review called Shutter Island “a movie that keeps you guessing to the end and then — miraculously — makes the guessing pay off.” Shutter Island seemed like a basic Leo DiCaprio vehicle. Directed by Martin Scorsese, US Marshall Teddy Daniels investigates a missing person on an island housing only a psychiatric hospital. DiCaprio plays a smooth detective with a troubled past but only when you get to the end do you discover this boring DiCaprio trope is actually a diversion. Teddy is a patient on the island. When doctor’s reveal his identity to him, he seems to understand and head towards recovery. In the final scene, Teddy appears to regress. As he’s taken away to receive a lobotomy, freeing him of his demons, he asks his doctor, “Which would be worse? To live as a monster, or die as a good man?”

6. Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins introduced Christopher Nolan’s gritty antihero in a spectacular first film. The ending managed to not only tie in the bat signal and gearing audiences up for Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance as the Joker but also summed up the theological differences between Batman and police chief Jim Gordon.

7. This Is The End (2013) 

There are few comedian-screenwriters as talented as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg making films today. This Is The End is an apocalyptic comedy of hedonism, cannibalism, and friendship that hits just the right note at the end when Seth sacrifices himself to allow his friend, Jay Baruchel, to enter heaven. His selfless act allows both of them to reunite with their friend Craig Robinson at the heavenly gates. After being told they can make anything happen in heaven, Jay reunites the Backstreet Boys who perform “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” for all the raptured. While Rogen didn’t get the original ending he envisioned, Morgan Freeman meeting the duo at the pearly gates and revealing he actually is God, the scene is a bizarre and oddly fulfilling end to a hilarious film.

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